I remember the moment my body shut down. It was 6AM. I was walking out of an hour-long spin class that had just wrapped up, when it felt like something snapped inside of me. I could walk no further. Somehow I eventually made it home, but I can’t recall how.
Up until that point in my adult life I had averaged about 5 hours of sleep a night. Definitely NEVER more than six hours. Usually more like four. At the time I reasoned, “Hey I’m getting more done than anyone else.” But I was slowly killing my body’s ability to recover.
In that one moment I went from 5 hours of sleep a night to almost NO SLEEP at all for a month. This may sound like an exaggeration, but I can recall one or two nights in that 30 day stretch where I could only sleep one or two hours. The rest of the nights were fog-filled wanderings full of anxiety and chest pains. I could only stomach a piece of toast or two a day. Every noise seemed like a train whistle. I felt like the walking dead. I remember on the flight to visit family that Christmas my chest hurt so bad that I really thought I was going to die.
After that first month I went from can’t sleep at all to needing twelve hours a night plus a three hour nap just to make it through the day for months on end. My head was in a continual state of swirling, like that feeling you have when lying in bed after playing in the surf all day. Except I was in a theology class. Not the kind of head swirling you want. It was truly awful. I felt like the world’s biggest sluggard, and I had no idea what was going on at the time. I’ve been to many doctors, had loads of tests, tried some intense diets. Some things have helped, yet I’ve had bouts of that same thing off and on for years since.
Earlier this year Julie and I had lunch with the authors of How We Love, a book that has had a big influence on our marriage. The Yerkoviches were in town to record for FamilyLife Today (listen here). If you want a quick introduction, take their online “Love Style Quiz”.
Over lunch they began to ask some probing questions about my health and mindset. Ever since experiencing that physical collapse during the first month of seminary back in 2005, I’ve struggled off and on with health and energy issues. The Yerkoviches wanted to know more about the lack of sleep. They kept asking why. Why did you feel compelled to neglect sleep? – to keep pushing hard when I should have been sleeping. Why? I don’t have a final answer, but the conversation opened that door of thought for me. One of the few times I felt completely without words for an uncomfortably long time. I’m grateful they let the silence linger.
Near the end of our conversation, the Yerkoviches recommended the book When The Body Says No. Basic premise: If you don’t learn to say no (or yes) or to take care of yourself emotionally, your body will say no for you. It will shut down for you as a self-preservation mechanism. The author, Gabor Maté, explains,
Habitual repression of emotion leaves a person in a situation of chronic stress, and chronic stress creates an unnatural biochemical milieu in the body. (1703)
Of course this makes sense when it comes to sleep, as I was putting chronic stress on my body by neglecting sleep. But this book helped me see that there was also a deep connection between physical health and the emotional life.
How you handle your emotions has a significant influence on your ability to succumb to or avoid sickness. And not just with little things like colds or the flu, but with the big ones like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, ALS, and intestinal diseases like Crohn’s.
Seems unbelievable? The author is a medical doctor and cites research backing up his claims. Here are some examples: Quotes are from the kindle edition of the book. Location numbers appear at the end of each quote.
In one study, psychologists interviewed patients admitted to [the] hospital for breast biopsy, without knowing the pathology results. Researchers were able to predict the presence of cancer in up to 94 per cent of cases judging by psychological factors alone. (1184)
“Extreme suppression of anger” was the most commonly identified characteristic of breast cancer patients in a 1974 British study. (1229)
The risk of lung cancer… was five times higher in men who lacked the ability to express emotion effectively. (1593)
Women experiencing a stressor objectively rated as highly threatening and who were without intimate emotional social support had a nine-fold increase in risk of developing breast carcinoma. (3423)
“I am convinced that Alzheimer’s is an autoimmune disease,” says Dr. Song. “It is probably triggered by chronic stress acting on an aging immune system.” (2920)
“Could early life experience, emotional repression and lifelong stress predispose to Alzheimer’s? Scientific research indicates so.” (2828)
“People with ALS seemed to have two lifelong patterns distinguishing them: rigidly competent behaviour— that is, the inability to ask for or receive help, and the chronic exclusion of so-called negative feelings. “Hard, steady work without recourse to help from others was pervasive,” the study notes. There seemed to have been a “habitual denial, suppression or isolation of . . . fear, anxiety, and sadness. . . . Most expressed the necessity to be cheerful. . . . [Some] spoke casually of their deterioration or did so with engaging smiles.” (810)
There is perhaps only so much energy the nervous system can expend pushing down powerful emotions that cry out for expression… At some point in particularly susceptible individuals, it seems reasonable to suppose, nerves may lose the ability to renew themselves. (938)
A 1955 study, which looked at over seven hundred people with ulcerative colitis, concluded that a high proportion of these patients “had obsessive- compulsive character traits, which included neatness, punctuality, and conscientiousness. Along with these character traits, guarding of affectivity [emotional expression], over- intellectualization, rigid attitudes toward morality and standards of behaviour. . . . Similar personality traits have also been used to describe patients with Crohn’s.” (2453)
The investigators produced an elaborate hoax by suggesting to a fourth-year medical student undergoing a voluntary… examination that they were seeing a cancer. This led to increased contractility or ‘spasm’ of the bowel, which persisted until the hoax was explained. These type of studies confirmed that stress affects colonic function in normal persons and patients. (2659)
In 1892 the Canadian William Osler, one of the greatest physicians of all time, suspected rheumatoid arthritis… to be a stress- related disorder. (153)
A 1987 review of the literature concluded that “the weight of evidence from a variety of studies strongly suggests a role for psychologic stress in inducing, exacerbating, and effecting the ultimate outcome in rheumatoid arthritis.” (3155)
Even people who have all the necessary genes do not necessarily get MS. The disease, experts believe, must be triggered by environmental factors. (410)
Depressed people secrete high levels of cortisol, which is why stressed and depressed postmenopausal women are more likely to develop osteoporosis and hip fractures. (645)
Dental students had a wound deliberately inflicted on their hard palates while they were facing immunology exams and again during vacation. In all of them the wound healed more quickly in the summer. Under stress, their white blood cells produced less of a substance essential to healing. (701)
In a study of stress, adaption and immunity, fourteen hundred military cadets at West Point were followed for four years. They were tested psychologically and had regular blood tests to study their susceptibility to the Epstein- Barr virus, the causative agent for infectious mononucleosis. Those most susceptible to contract the virus or to develop clinical disease had the following in common: they had high ambitions for themselves; they were struggling academically; they had fathers who were high achievers. We can see here the relationship between the stress and the perceived need to live up to parental expectation— that is, between the internal biological milieu and the child’s continuing need to gain acceptance. (3462)
What does Maté believe to be the root cause behind all this? An unhealthy long-term repression of emotion.
Repression— dissociating emotions from awareness and relegating them to the unconscious realm— disorganizes and confuses our physiological defences so that in some people these defences go awry, becoming the destroyers of health rather than its protectors. (198)
Repressed anger will lead to disordered immunity. (3132)
The people that I see with cancers and all these conditions have difficulty saying no and expressing anger. (1501)
Our results appear to agree with findings that cancer patients ‘tend to deny and repress conflictual impulses and emotions to a higher degree than do other people.’ (2302)
Why did the repression of emotion lead to chronic diseases? The long term repression of emotion causes all kinds of negative biological results in the body:
Chronically high cortisol levels destroy tissue. Chronically elevated adrenalin levels raise the blood pressure and damage the heart. (689)
The biology of stress predominantly affected three types of tissues or organs in the body: in the hormonal system, visible changes occurred in the adrenal glands; in the immune system, stress affected the spleen, the thymus and the lymph glands; and the intestinal lining of the digestive system. (624)
Why isn’t the connection between emotion and health taken more seriously? Why do doctors seem to ignore the emotional side of life? Have you ever had a doctor ask “Do you have any stress in your life?” Or ANYTHING about your personal life? The doctor I visited in Phoenix ran blood tests and had some jelly out on the table (no way I was going there) but never once asked anything about my sleep, emotional health, diet, workplace, or family. I’ve heard of doctors saying to patients with UC “what you eat has no effect on your condition.” Really? If I were to eat a bunch of bread I’d have to run to the toilet and I don’t even have UC. There’s really NO connection?
Maté makes some observations about this disconnect between patient and doctor:
[A] North Carolina study that found a majority of women with IBS to have suffered abuse, it was also learned that in only 17 percent of the abuse cases was the patient’s physician aware of the traumatic history. (2774)
Breast cancer patients often report that their doctors do not express an active interest in them as individuals or in the social and emotional context in which they live. The assumption is that these factors have no significant role in either the origins or the treatment. (1135)
The more specialized doctors become, the more they know about a body part or organ and the less they tend to understand the human being in whom that part or organ resides. (138)
I found that even after many years of treating a person, a doctor could remain quite in the dark about the patient’s life and experience outside the narrow boundaries of illness. (142)
…until the advent of modern medical technology and of scientific pharmacology, physicians traditionally had to rely on “placebo” effects. They had to inspire in each patient a confidence in his, the patient’s, inner ability to heal. To be effective, a doctor had to listen to the patient, to develop a relationship with him, and he had also to trust his own intuitions. Those are the qualities doctors seem to have lost. (158)
The straightforward connection between childhood experience and adult stress has been missed by so many researchers over so many years that one almost begins to wonder if the oversight is deliberate. (1311)
Is it deliberate? I’m not a conspiracy theorist – yet it doesn’t take much logic to see how upside down the system is. Doctors are financed heavily by pharmaceutical and insurance companies. They have to keep both parties happy to stay in practice; prescribe the pills and move the people through. In contrast, there are no large corporations incentivizing the strategy of listening to patients emotional state. There is little financial incentive to try and get the whole picture.
And drugs are sometimes pushed on people even when it is of little medical benefit.
The practical exclusion of people’s life histories from the medical approach to illness deprives doctors of powerful healing tools. It also leaves them vulnerable to grasping at the latest pharmacological miracle. A case in point is the sobering example of a recent “wonder drug” for irritable bowel syndrome.
Alosetron had been greeted with much fanfare. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in February 2000. At the end of November, only a month after the publication of the enthusiastic article in The Medical Post, the FDA forced the manufacturer to withdraw the drug. More women had been hospitalized with ischemic colitis, several of whom required surgery. It was reported that in at least one case the patient’s entire colon had to be removed. There were also reports of deaths. (2790)
One company I know of continues to push seasonal flu shots even though an employee faced a near-death debilitating illness as a direct result of the vaccine. He suffered for over a year from the results and most likely experiences long term damage. Yes the flu is messy – but does the average worker in the average workplace suffered as much from it?
I know a mom who was heavily pressured to have her daughter get the HPV shot. Why? Is it really that beneficial? Aren’t there better things for doctors to be pushing on people than a medicine not needed? Like, “Eat less. Eat less sugar. Exercise more. Reduce stress. And then you can get off of [X] pills.”
PS – to my doctor friends. I don’t think all doctors are bad or prescribing pills just to make money or meet a quota. But I do believe the pressure of the system leans heavily in that direction.
Maté ends the book with his seven “As” for healing: Acceptance, Awareness, Anger, Autonomy, Attachment, Assertion, and Affirmation. He provides many helpful thoughts on these points. I’m going to focus on expressing what worked for me.
After much speculation about the root cause of my illness, I’ve come to the conclusion that it was a perfect storm of contributing factors, particularly stress, diet, negative self-talk, and lack of sleep. And I lean towards the negative self-talk that was generating a bad emotional life as being the greatest contributing factor feeding the other factors.
Here are four basic categories of approaches I’ve taken to healing:
Tend Your Garden
First is to recognize the importance of “tending your garden.” You have more influence on your health and healing than any doctor or medical professional. They can certainly help you along the way, but you are the only one who is with you all day long and makes thousands of decisions a day that affect your health. You have to think of health in terms of the whole person – that everything you do either improves or diminishes your health. Every food, beverage, task, relationship, prayer, conversation, experience, all of it. The healthier your whole person is physically, spiritually, and emotionally, the better suited you are to endure whatever sickness heads your way. Maté talks in terms of the environment being the biggest contributing factor to chronic illness – i.e. the response of the individual to a situation.
The nineteenth century saw a heated debate on this subject, conducted for decades between two outstanding figures in the history of medicine, the pioneer microbiologist Louis Pasteur and the physiologist Claude Barnard. Pasteur insisted that the virulence of the microbe decided the course of illness, Barnard that the vulnerability of the host body was most responsible. On his deathbed Pasteur recanted. “Barnard was right. The microbe is nothing, the ground (i.e., the host body) is everything.” (4217)
While we cannot say that any personality type causes cancer, certain personality features definitely increase the risk because they are more likely to generate physiological stress. (2313)
It is the internal environment, locally and throughout the entire organism, that plays the major role in deciding whether the malignancy will flourish or be eliminated. (1794)
The activities of cells are defined not simply by the genes in their nuclei but by the requirements of the entire organism— and by the interaction of that organism with the environment in which it must survive. Genes are turned on or off by the environment. (4007)
Genetically you might be predisposed to a certain illness, but that does not determine your outcome. It’s how you personally relate to the environment you face. So to best battle chronic illness, you have to tend your own garden and make sure your soil is sound and able to fight off illnesses.
How do you tend your garden?
Start with emotional health (I’ll get into that more in the other points about anger and positive self talk). Find the most stressful situations you experience and develop a strategy for changing those. If you’re in a job that is stressing you out, figure out how to get out of it or change the situation. It’s too important. Find at least one thing a day that energizes you and relieves stress and gives you joy. Start looking forward to that. Find positive people to be around.
Physically – eat foods that make you feel good and avoid foods that make you feel bad. Ask probing questions to see if you can get to the root cause of physical problems. A skin rash points to a deeper issue. Itching does as well. Sensitivity to light and sound also. Why are those occurring? A pill might cure the symptoms but avoid the root issue.
Limit caffeine (hard one for me). Limit carbs and sweets. And gluten. And grain.
Learn to breathe deep and do it often. Oxygen is an amazing healing agent.
Get time in the sun. Get time near the beach. Sit on a park bench at lunch with no agenda. Go on dates with the one you love. Laugh and play with your children. Or with your brother’s children.
Sleep – Be honest with yourself about how much sleep you really need. Test yourself by going to bed at 9PM and not setting an alarm for a week. See how late you sleep. Many people who are easily irritated are probably short on sleep and dehydrated.
Drink water. Drink more water.
One thing I’ve learned from Julie about gardening – it’s not the appearance of the plant that matters as much as the condition and location of the soil. You must have rich soil with the direct sunlight and proper moisture to grow good vegetables. Vegetation may appear to have great potential when first planted, but the soil, sunlight, and water will determine the ultimate outcome. This is biblical (see Matthew chapter 13). You can’t cheat on the soil. It will find you out. Julie spends all winter investing in the soil so that it’s ready for planting in the spring. It can’t be done the week before and produce the same results. And every year of investment brings improvement.
You’ve got to figure out your garden – how to tend it and care for the soil. Only you can do that. Only you can ask the hard questions and really listen to your body. It’s a long, long, process that requires careful attention to small details. But it’s worth it and you are worth it. No one else can or will do this for you.
Get in Community
Make sure to have a strong support network of relationships. Have people around you who can help you process life, who care about you, who are positive people, who are independent, not co-dependent. Who help you flourish and become the best version of yourself. People who really know how to listen well. Americans are chronically isolated and it is a proven contributor to sickness.
The rates of an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, suffered by blacks in South Africa under apartheid increased as they migrated to the city from their native villages, even if in strict financial terms they may have gained by the move. The major factor would seem to be the psychological pressures of living in an environment where official racism directly and overtly deprived people of autonomy and dignity, while it uprooted people from their traditional family and social supports. (2038)
American blacks experience prostate cancer at a sixfold rate compared with black men in Nigeria. (2029) The author observes here that even though these men had an almost identical gene pool, the Americans were more susceptible to prostate cancer because of their social environment – i.e. they were much more isolated from a support network and community. (JCM)
The reader will remember… that medical students under the stress of exams were shown to have diminished immune system activity, but that the most isolated among them were the most vulnerable. The physiological functioning of human beings is inseparable— even in theory, let alone in practice— from the emotional and social connections that help to sustain us. (3427)
The researchers found that emotional factors and social involvement were more important to survival than the degree of disease itself. (1169)
In the book Tribe by Sebastian Junger, he noted that “Studies from around the world show that recovery from war – from any trauma – is heavily influence by the society one belongs to.” “A modern soldier returning from combat… goes from a… close-knit group… back into a society where most people work outside the home, children are educated by strangers, families are isolated from wider communities, and personal gain almost completely eclipses collective good.”
Americans are isolated. So lonely. And the older one gets, the more lonely one becomes. After living in Fiji six months I have a much better appreciate for this. I can’t think of one person I knew or met who lived alone – at any age. On our street, every single home was comprised of multiple families living together, often with grandparents in the home as well. Of course that can add other kinds of stress, but the tradeoff seems to be in favor of community.
So find people you want to be like and who inspire you and nag them to death till they spend time with you. They want the time with you too. They really do. They are just busy and forget the importance of community because of their isolated life. Proverbs 18:1 often rings in my head: “He who isolates himself seeks his own desire and breaks out against all sound judgment.” You have to be the initiator, otherwise it won’t happen. And social media is no substitute for community.
Renew Your Mind (and, “Be Kind to Yourself.”)
How you view yourself has a huge influence on your emotional health, which directly affects your physical health.
…unconscious beliefs, embedded at the cellular level… They “control” our behaviours no matter what we may think on the conscious level. They keep us in shut- down defensive modes or allow us to open to growth and to health. (4050)
A major contributor to the genesis of many diseases— all the examples we have looked at— is an overload of stress induced by unconscious beliefs. If we would heal, it is essential to begin the painfully incremental task of reversing the biology of belief we adopted very early in life. Whatever external treatment is administered, the healing agent lies within. The internal milieu must be changed. To find health, and to know it fully, necessitates a quest, a journey to the centre of our own biology of belief. That means rethinking and recognizing— re- cognizing: literally, to “know again”— our lives. (4193)
You can’t force yourself to say no anymore than you can force someone else to say no, but you can be compassionate toward yourself. (4647)
This has been the most important factor in my healing in recent months. After the conversation with the Yerkoviches, and because of something Tim Ferriss said, I realized I had been directing a steady stream of negative self talk toward myself for all of my adult life. No matter how things looked on the outside, the inside conversation was withering and destructive. This is no way to treat yourself. If you will not be kind to yourself, who will?
Compassionate curiosity about the self does not mean liking everything we find out about ourselves, only that we look at ourselves with the same non- judgmental acceptance we would wish to accord anyone else who suffered and who needed help. (4658)
So much of your energy goes into looking after others, and so much of what remains goes into self- judgments. Being this harsh on yourself takes up a lot of energy. (4650)
You have to learn to be kind to yourself. This starts with intentional positive self-talk. This isn’t empty repetition of “you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggonit, people like you.” The focus is on biblical truth. What biblical truths – things that Scripture says are true of you – do I need to hold on to? What glorious truth do you need to dwell on? I’m not ignoring the hard truths. Those are deeply ingrained already. I’ve been emphasizing those in my head for decades. I already know those messages by heart. Scripture always couples a hard truth “you were dead in sins” (Eph 2:1) with a glorious truth “but God made you alive” (Eph 2:5). Now I’m focusing on the glorious truths. This is, as Maté says, “the painfully incremental task of reversing the biology of belief we adopted very early in life.” And it is no easy task.
I have a list of 10 truths I review every morning to remind me of who I am in Christ. These statements are too personal to share in total here. Not because they would be embarrassing, but because they are tailored to who I am, where I’ve been, and where I want to head. They wouldn’t relate to you. In fact, they might even seem trivial depending on where you are in life.
But I’ll give you an example of how this works. If you find yourself constantly chastising yourself in the area of lust, you may have developed an internal narrative like this: “You are a lust filled pervert.” You need to battle this fallen identity you’ve built with a redeemed identity you can begin building. Develop a positive statement that counters the negative one, and is in the present tense: “I am a Gentleman who makes others better. I’m a giver, not a taker.” And I’ll almost always add, “Because of Christ….” Because these statements aren’t without hope or pulled out of thin air. Imagine acting as Christ would in those same moments and believing you will as well. How did He treat women and how did they feel around him? They felt like the best versions of themselves. They felt uplifted, not used. Come to believe that “I am the kind of person who leaves others feeling that way too.”
Start by writing down the most common negative statements you say to yourself. Not sure what those are? Keep a pad of paper nearby. Any time you say, “That was stupid.” Or “You idiot!” to yourself, write down the situation and surrounding thoughts you had related to it. After you have a starting list, take a morning one Saturday to write down the opposite positive truth for each negative statement. Seek to attach it to a clear scripture. This list doesn’t have to be exhaustive to begin with. I started with two or three statements and over the years have built it out to 10 or so. I knew at first it didn’t address it all, but now I feel like I’m close. I wrote it in pencil because I often find myself tweaking a word here and there over time.
Make sure to repeat these phrases every day. Multiple times a day if needed. Eventually they will start to take over the negative statements and form a new narrative. Like a catechism or creed recited Sunday after Sunday, shaping the automatic response of a church body, so these statements will form the way you automatically think of yourself over time.
This is hard work, but important work. And you are worth it.
Be Angry… and Do Not Sin
“I never get angry,” a Woody Allen character says in one of his movies, “I grow a tumour instead.” (4700)
How do you deal with emotion properly? I had no idea that how one handles emotions, particularly anger, has one of the greatest influences on your long-term health. Maté observed,
Repression, the inability to say no and a lack of awareness of one’s anger make it much more likely that a person will find herself in situations where her emotions are unexpressed, her needs are ignored and her gentleness is exploited. Those situations are stress inducing, whether or not the person is conscious of being stressed. Repeated and multiplied over the years, they have the potential of harming homeostasis and the immune system. It is stress— not personality per se— that undermines a body’s physiological balance and immune defences, predisposing to disease or reducing the resistance to it. (2314)
You have to learn to deal with anger appropriately. But first you have to be willing to recognize and acknowledge anger in your life. Like Winona said to Raylan, “Honestly, you’re the angriest man I have ever known.” And he was completely shocked.
I remember a situation where I was treated poorly. I wanted to take the high road (a good desire in theory) so I stuffed down the various emotions I felt. I kept saying, “No big deal. It could be worse. So many others have it so much worse. This is nothing in comparison.” Yes that is true, but it doesn’t take away what I experienced. I really was hurt and angry, but I was unwilling to admit the anger. It took a long time and it took a good friend telling me I should be angry – that it was ok to be angry.
If you don’t acknowledge the anger, you’re not dealing with reality. Which will isolate you from others and yourself.
The person who does not feel or express “negative” emotion will be isolated even if surrounded by friends, because his real self is not seen. (1840)
Acknowledge the anger. Own the anger. Recognize that it is there. But then what? How do you experience anger without sin? Here is some of what Maté says:
How then to resolve the dilemma of anger? If the expression of anger is harmful and so is its repression, how do we hope to attain health and healing? The repression of anger and the unregulated acting- out of it are both examples of the abnormal release of emotions that is at the root of disease. (4729)
Healthy anger, he says, is an empowerment and a relaxation. The real experience of anger “is physiologic experience without acting out. The experience is one of a surge of power going through the system, along with a mobilization to attack. There is, simultaneously, a complete disappearance of all anxiety. (4736)
Anger does not require hostile acting out. First and foremost, it is a physiological process to be experienced. Second, it has cognitive value— it provides essential information. Since anger does not exist in a vacuum, if I feel anger it must be in response to some perception on my part. It may be a response to loss or the threat of it in a personal relationship, or it may signal a real or threatened invasion of my boundaries. I am greatly empowered without harming anyone if I permit myself to experience the anger and to contemplate what may have triggered it. Depending on circumstances, I may choose to manifest the anger in some way or to let go of it. The key is that I have not suppressed the experience of it. I may choose to display my anger as necessary in words or in deeds, but I do not need to act it out in a driven fashion as uncontrolled rage. Healthy anger leaves the individual, not the unbridled emotion, in charge. (4786)
Are his thoughts the perfect response? I don’t know. But it’s a fair starting point. How do you handle anger rightly? There is no simple answer. Depending on the depth of the offense, it may take you years to figure that out. But that’s ok. Don’t avoid it. It won’t go away. If you don’t press into it, then the body will say no in response.
There’s another layer to this that begin in childhood.
When, as a child, you felt sad, upset or angry, was there anyone you could talk to— even when he or she was the one who had triggered your negative emotions? In a quarter century of clinical practice, including a decade of palliative work, I have never heard anyone with cancer or with any chronic illness or condition say yes to that question. (2335)
More than likely if you’re a person that has repressed your emotions for any extended period of time, you probably learned that in your childhood. You’re going to need to deal with that. The Yerkovich’s book How We Love is a great starting point to identifying those patterns. But this also will take a long time. But it’s worth it, and you are worth it.
SAY YES NOW
Ultimately, you have to own your health. You have to learn about your body. You have to be willing to make hard choices for the sake of your health. In a toxic work place setting? Get another job. There are millions out there. Yours is not the only one. In a toxic relationship? Work on it. In bad shape physically? Take steps to find the time to get exercise, even if it means cutting out something else.
YOU ARE IMPORTANT ENOUGH FOR THIS. You really are. Stop neglecting yourself. I plead with you today. Make your own emotional, physical, and spiritual health a priority. You’ll be happier and the people around you will have better lives in the long run for doing so.
Looking back, I can see now that my drive to skip sleep was rooted in some other emotional health issue. I was driving hard to make up for some other loss, or to avoid dealing with negative emotions, or to give myself a sense of worth. This will take a long time to fully unpack and understand, but that’s ok. I’m filled with hope and joy now that I’m dealing with reality and not ignoring some of the hard things of life. And really, this is the best way to live.